Celebrated soprano Renée Fleming returns to her alma mater The Juilliard School, where four young students, selected by the YoungArts program, nervously await her arrival in a studio that Fleming jokes used to be "a courtyard." After introductions, Crystal, Sean, Samantha and Aaron, accompanied by a piano, perform selections from well-known operas, and Fleming gives each individualized feedback and exercises to help them relax and breathe properly. Says Fleming, "Don't be afraid to do weird things," because many exercises she also does herself. Some of these odd tips and tricks include practicing with a cough drop in your mouth, singing with a pencil between your teeth, or rehearsing a song with your tongue out to loosen up.
After the rare treat of sitting in on Renée's rehearsal with a full orchestra at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, the students visit Fleming's home for an informal gathering, receiving advice on the lifelong process of studying opera, as well as how to deal with competition and remain resilient in the face of rejection. Finally, the group travels to the Lyric Opera of Chicago, of which Fleming was named Creative Consultant, where they get to stand on the stage and tour the Opera's extensive costume closet. The students seem unanimous in expressing that this has been among the best experiences of their young lives. Says Aaron, participating in a masterclass with Fleming "helped me to know that me being a young musician is okay -- I just need to put a little more effort to become everything that a singer should be."